Albums of 2010, No 07: Caribou – Swim

Bask in the glow of this extraordinary album, by all means. But keep an ear out for the heart-rending lyrics at the centre of Caribou's swirling sound

Whether you want to go paddling in Odessa, bask in Sun, or have always fancied dipping a toe in the seductive shallows of Jamelia, Caribou's Swim offers the listener many different kinds of pleasurable immersion. And each time you come up for air, the shimmering surface of this extraordinary album leaves a new tingle on your skin.

When prodigiously gifted Canadian electro émigré Dan Snaith first proclaimed his intention to leave messy psychedelic records behind in favour of "dance music that sounds like it's made of water", people who loved his four previous albums (including the two made under his earlier name, Manitoba) couldn't help but feel a little anxious. But from the moment at the start of Odessa when the beat kicks in and Snaith's trademark percussive clatter swarms around it like starlings gathering off Brighton's west pier, its clear he's going with the flow rather than throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

It's a testament to how many musical layers this album has – from the gamelan shimmer of Bowls to Hannibal's sombre horn-section – that you can (at least, I managed to) listen to Swim 20 or 30 times before really noticing the lyrics. That's not too surprising amid the spiralling Ibiza sprawl of Sun, in which the title is the only word there is, but how and why did Snaith manage to sneak songs about growing old, divorce and loneliness into what is ostensibly the year's best feel-good dance album?

With Odessa's female protagonist poised to "take the kids and drive away" and the couple in Kaili "watching each other grow old", it's clear we're a long way from Michael Jackson's Off the Wall now, Toto. But far from highlighting the opposition between the youthful release of the dancefloor and the compromises that inevitably follow, Swim offers a way of resolving that contradiction.

From the sanctified splash of baptism, through the blissful mid-life satori of a summer dip in the gravel pit to the sombre final act of a Viking funeral, the best way forward is often to let yourself submerge. And whether it's water or music that swirls around you, the effect is equally liberating.


Ben Thompson

The GuardianTramp

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